The Hong Kong Labour department reminded employers on Tuesday (12 October 2021) to make alternative work arrangements for staff during typhoon and tropical cyclone warnings.
**This article was updated on 13 October 2021 with the latest information from the Hong Kong observatory
The Hong Kong observatory hoisted typhoon signal 3 late on Monday evening (11 Oct) as tropical cyclone Kompasu neared Hong Kong. The storm was upgraded to T8 at 5:20pm on Monday afternoon and is expected to stay in force until 4pm on Wednesday (Oct 13).
The Observatory also committed to issuing more timely warnings and deploying additional staff than it had over the weekend when typhoon Lionrock swept through Hong Kong. It received some criticism for its warnings. One person died Friday after a scaffolding collapsed at a residential building in Happy Valley, before the black rainstorm warning was hoisted.
In a press statement issued early on Tuesday (12 October), the Labour Department advised employers to make prior work arrangements for staff during and after tropical cyclone and rainstorm warnings, including arrangements on reporting for duty, release from work, resumption of work and work from home (if applicable).
“In drawing up and implementing the work arrangements and contingency measures for periods during and after tropical cyclone and rainstorm warnings, employers should give prime consideration to employees' safety and the feasibility for employees to travel to and from their workplaces.
"Employers should also give consideration as much as possible to the different situations faced by individual employees, such as their place of residence and the road and traffic conditions in the vicinity, and adopt a sympathetic and flexible approach with due regard to their actual difficulties and needs," an LD spokesman said.
The Labour Department recommended that to avoid disputes, employers can draw up prior guidelines in consultation with employees. These should cover:
- Arrangements in respect of reporting for duty;
- Arrangements in respect of early release from work;
- Arrangements in respect of resumption of work (e.g. the number of hours within which employees should resume duty after the warning concerned is cancelled, and when safety and traffic conditions allow
- Arrangements in respect of work from home (e.g. duty and work arrangements during and after tropical cyclone and rainstorm warnings);
- Arrangements regarding working hours, wages and allowances (e.g. calculation of wages and allowances in respect of reporting for duty and absence); and
- Special arrangements in respect of essential staff in times of adverse weather.
"Employers should require only absolutely essential staff to report for duty at workplaces in adverse weather or when the post-super typhoon 'extreme conditions' exist and the number of essential staff at workplaces should be kept to the minimum as far as possible," said the Department.
"When weather conditions continue to worsen and public transport services are to be suspended shortly, employers should release their staff early or arrange for them to work from home as soon as practicable”
There are also a number of legal and statutory regulations that employers are required to meet including the Employment Ordinance, the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance, the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance, the Employees' Compensation Ordinance and the Minimum Wage Ordinance.
"If employees are required to work in times of typhoons and rainstorms, employers should ensure that the risks at work are reduced as far as reasonably practicable," the press release said.
Under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance, employers are liable to pay compensation for death or injury incurred when employees are travelling by a direct route from their residence to their workplace, or from their workplace back to their residence after work, four hours before or after working hours on a day when T8 or higher or a Red or Black Rainstorm Warning Signal is in force, or within the period (including any extended period) during which “extreme conditions” that arise from a super typhoon or other natural disasters of a substantial scale exist as specified in an “extreme conditions” announcement.
"As typhoons and rainstorms are natural occurrences that cannot be avoided, for employees who are not able to report for duty or resume work on time due to adverse weather conditions, employers should not withhold their wages, good attendance bonuses or allowances without reasons," said the LD. "Employers should enquire into the reasons and give due consideration to the exceptional circumstances in each case and should not penalise or dismiss the employee concerned rashly," he said.
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